Sept. 27, 2005
PULLMAN, Wash. - Last Friday (Sept. 23), as Hurricane Rita was bearing down on the Louisiana-Texas border, the Washington State women's basketball team was in the midst of helping a Louisiana family affected by Hurricane Katrina.
In just three hours at Pullman's Safeway grocery store, the team raised $2,200 in cash and gift cards that will go directly to helping the Petry family: Randy and Danel, daughter Jennifer (23) and son Jeremy (20) of Slidell, La., a town roughly 30 miles northeast of New Orleans on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain.
"On behalf of the team and staff, I want to thank every person who contributed to helping this family out," WSU Head Coach Sherri Murrell said. "The team and staff appreciate everyone who showed their willingness to give."
Murrell, who played collegiate ball at Southwestern Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana-Lafayette) from 1986-88 and Debi Sterk, wife of WSU Director of Athletics Jim Sterk, still have many close friends in the area from their time living in Louisiana (Jim Sterk once worked at Tulane University). Two of those friends own a bakery, where Randy is an employee, in Kenner, La., a city just west of New Orleans. Murrell and Sterk became aware of the family's plight from the owners of the bakery.
"The team and staff have felt helpless as we've watched the events and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina unfold," Murrell said. "We wanted to help, and not just by sending money to charities, but to adopt a specific family in need.
"The Petry family is only one family among thousands who have lost everything," Murrell added. "We feel blessed for the opportunity to help the Petrys rebuild their lives."
Ironically, the family, who were displaced to a relative's home in Texas because of Hurricane Katrina, were riding out Hurricane Rita Friday. In spite of that, Murrell and the team were able to talk to the family in the midst of their fundraiser.
"They had to purchase a generator to ensure they had power," Murrell said. "The family was overwhelmed with gratitude by the people's generosity."
Friday's fundraiser marked the beginning of what Murrell stresses will be a season-long effort to help the family and others affected by the hurricane. Coaches and players will be going throughout the local business community to accept cash donations, clothing, and personal items for the family from a list that Murrell and Sterk has compiled.
Murrell is also gathering WSU clothing and each member of the team will provide handwritten notes to give to the family.
Murrell asks that the general public donate gift cards from retail outlets such as Macy's, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, Sears and Home Depot, which will be used for household items and clothing. In addition, the public can donate money, which will be used for shipping packages to the family, food and personal items (personal hygiene, etc.).
Individuals who would like to contribute can also drop off donations at the women's basketball office at 220 Bohler Athletic Complex or by calling Linda Rubenthaler in the women's basketball office at 509-335-0276.